Pregnancy is a time of great change in a woman’s body, and oral health is no exception. While it may not be the first thing on your mind, your dental health is critical for a healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause chemical imbalances throughout your body, leading to changes in vitamin and mineral levels. In this post, we’ll cover what you need to know about oral health during pregnancy, including how pregnancy affects your gums, whether pregnancy causes tooth decay, and what vitamins you need more of from Dr. Dennis Flanagan at Dennis J. Flanagan DDS MS.
How Does Pregnancy Affect Your Gums?
Pregnancy does not necessarily cause gum disease or gingivitis. However, if you already have gingivitis before pregnancy, it can worsen during pregnancy. Gingivitis often increases in severity throughout pregnancy, peaking during the third trimester. Localized sores or lesions called gingival enlargements can also occur in patients who have gingivitis during pregnancy, which may bleed and cause pain. However, these symptoms usually recede a few months after birth.
Pregnancy also causes changes in the soft tissue around the gums due to changes in saliva composition, which can lead to the progression of gingivitis and an increased risk of tooth decay. Severe gum disease, or periodontitis, also increases in severity during pregnancy. Periodontitis in women is linked to premature birth and low birth weight, with studies showing that approximately 18% of premature births can be associated with periodontal disease. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain good oral health throughout pregnancy and inform your dentist of your pregnancy, so they can adjust your treatment accordingly.
Does Pregnancy Cause Tooth Decay?
Changes in saliva composition during pregnancy can make your teeth more susceptible to decay and may cause enamel erosion. Fortunately, with good oral hygiene, this chemical change should not cause significant damage to your teeth and will not last beyond pregnancy.
However, the biggest risk of decay during pregnancy is acidic deposits from vomit. Many pregnant women experience morning sickness and vomit frequently, sometimes multiple times a day. Vomit contains high levels of acid, which can lead to significant enamel damage and a more permanent risk of decay. After vomiting, wait ten to fifteen minutes before brushing your teeth. Swishing some water around gently right after you vomit and waiting a few minutes before brushing ensures that the acid-weakened enamel does not get further damaged by rough brushing. Adding a fluoride mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine can help strengthen your enamel and protect it from damage.
What Vitamins Do I Need More Of?
During pregnancy, it is essential to maintain a balanced and healthy diet to ensure that you and your baby receive the necessary vitamins and minerals. For your oral health, vitamins C and D are particularly important. Vitamin C helps to protect your gums from inflammation, while vitamin D is crucial for strong bones and teeth. If you are struggling to get enough of these vitamins through your diet, your dentist may recommend supplements.
In conclusion, maintaining good oral health during pregnancy is crucial for both you and your baby’s health. Be sure to inform your dentist of your pregnancy, practice good oral hygiene, and eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals.